Patriots Youngsters Give Up Spotlight During Transition Into Rookie Camp

Patriots Youngsters Give Up Spotlight During Transition Into Rookie CampFOXBORO, Mass. — The honeymoon period ended Friday for the Patriots' rookies, who reported to Gillette Stadium for their first set of practices as professional athletes.

New England's seven draft picks were still glowing from one of the greatest rushes of their lives, but that feeling of ecstasy was set to subside as the workload increased. Granted, that's what they love to do, but the rookie camp serves as a strict transition.

The Patriots' highest draft picks were immediately introduced to the New England media two weeks ago, and they returned to their respective homes afterward. From there, they celebrated, received plenty of congratulations, sought out advice and worked out to ensure they were in proper shape for this week's camp.

"It's been kind of a rollercoaster ride," defensive end Jake Bequette said. "Getting the call on draft day was awesome, and after that going back to Fayetteville, [Ark.], and continuing to work out, getting ready for my first appearance here in Foxboro and getting ready to go."

The Patriots' seven draft picks joined seven undrafted free agents and six players with one year of experience at the rookie camp. As head coach Bill Belichick joked during the draft, they won't be building Rome over the course of the weekend, but it's a useful tool to build a foundation as the rookies prepare to join the veterans for organized team activities and minicamp.

The rookies have started sorting through the playbook to get a better idea of the terminology, and the on-field work gives them a chance to see how the Patriots run their practices. The idea, in its simplest form, is to ensure the rookies don't hold the veterans back when the full team unites for practice.

"Learn the playbook and earn the respect from your teammates, guys who have been here," defensive end Chandler Jones said. "That's what I've been trying to do, learn the playbook and get their trust."

Several rookies, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower, noted this stretch has served as the start of their fulfilled dreams of reaching the NFL. It also means the afterglow of the draft has switched off, as the purpose of their process has officially begun.

"I'd rather not have the spotlight on me," Hightower said. "I'm glad that's over. It's fun and everything, but I'm ready to get down to business."

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Twitter/Mike Reiss